It has for years been our family tradition to order a spiced beef for Christmas. A glorious (expensive) treat, the beef is steeped for weeks in a herb and salt mix, turned frequently and then steamed to eating perfection. As I’m writing this, I realize it doesn’t sound that good. You’ll have to take my word for it.
We always ordered our spiced beef from John Brennan, who brought them in from a supplier of precious custom meats.
Then one year, John told us he could no longer order spiced beef.
When I mentioned this in passing to Lucretia Rowe one day, she jumped up and started thumbing through her vast culinary records to find her recipe for spiced beef. “I make mine every November,” she announced, pointing to the balcony of her Vancouver apartment as the cooling location for her annual project. And yes, of course I could make mine with hers.
I was delighted to be learning this age old recipe from a woman so famed in the kitchen. And so, spiced beef lives on, thanks to Lucretia.
The community bade farewell to Lucretia last week, sending the region’s most fervent Progressive Conservative to her rightful heavenly address, aside the late Robert Stanfield, who passed away on the same day.
Lucretia Rowe was a woman whose life demonstrates charm and grace and unbelievably hard work and positive attitude and the ability to see what someone needs and make that happen. A young woman who remained single (“an unclaimed treasure” was her term), Lucretia forged for herself a reputation as THE person to run the Progressive Conservative office in any political campaign. Heber Smith, Arthur Evans, Earl Rowe, George Taylor, P.B. (Doc) Rynard, Ron Stewart… all these PC provincial and federal candidates relied on Lucretia’s memory, contacts, and good will.
Living on modest salary as a secretary at Stewart Esten Law Firm, she began her office career in the early 40’s and on that income managed to buy a lot kitty corner to her grandfather George Cole, between Shanty Bay Rd and the waterfront, on Puget St and build a home that became party-central in the 50’s and 60’s. With grace and charm, Lucretia brought together politicians, ministers, families, children, and with platters of food and drink brought true meaning to the word ‘fun’. She had her own little motorboat and managed to accompany her nephew on his cross-the-bay swim. She loved her nieces and nephews; she loved all children, really and Alf Dick recalls her generosity in inviting him, wife Ruth and their four children frequently for dinners at the Puget St home. “NObody invites people with four children anywhere,” reflected Ruth Dick last week, reminiscing about Lucretia’s incredible dinner parties.
Even after she sold her wonderful home and moved next door to an apartment, Lucretia continued to put together groups of people to enjoy her graciousness as a hostess. Memorable dinner parties were all the more so because of her unique ability to put together interesting people. Peter Mills, longtime partner with Stewart Esten, recalls her gentle kindness. “She had an ability to see what I needed as a young city kid arriving at a small town law firm. She pointed me in the right direction, connected me to the right people. She was graciousness itself.”
Lucretia represents to me a person who grew up in a time when it was expected that girls would grow to women, marry, produce children, and stay home to raise them.
Fiercely independent, she did none of this. However, she opened wide her arms and her heart and took a community unto herself. And we all benefitted. When she died at age 93, it was with grace and care and love. And what more can any of us hope to do?
Thanks, Lucretia! Live well.
PS. Next week, if you’re interested, I’ll print Lucretia’s Spiced Beef recipe. She’d want you to have it.